Homewood City Council Rec Center Meeting July 23



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Full Speech of which only the first half was given

July 23, 2012

I am here to voice my concern about The Process of how this Recreation Center developed.

I spoke to Rich Laws recently who is currently on the Park Board, and soon to be my Ward 5 Council person. Rich asked me the following question: “I can’t understand why certain Council Members have such a problem with the Rec. Center project?” I was surprised by his question. For the benefit of all in this room, I would like to answer by comparing and contrasting the Process that caused a lot of concern in Homewood.

Let’s consider the Process utilized by Shades Valley YMCA as apposed to the Homewood Park Board. The YMCA is a non profit organization that survives based on its membership and activity fees, along with donations from fund raising campaigns covering their expenses. Like the YMCA, the Homewood Recreation Center operates using its membership and activity fees, but unfortunately has to be subsidized by the Homewood Tax Payer to cover its operating expenses.

Both the Homewood Recreation Center and the YMCA have similar facilities including gyms, weight rooms, activity rooms, and a myriad of exercise classes, etc. For the record, I may not have all the details 100% correct for this discussion, but this is my understanding from talking to YMCA members.

When the Board and Members of the YMCA decided they needed to make changes to their facility once again for the purpose of keeping, and attracting new members, they embarked on a 3 year process. This process was primarily driven with Member Feedback through Committees and multiple Focus Group Sessions of which a significant amount of the Membership was involved. In addition, extensive surveys of Members and Stakeholders occurred along with comment card boxes, etc.to determine the Wants and Needs of its Members before anything else was done. Since they are a Member focused organization, the Members are the Stake Holders providing funding. Their input was vital and required to determine the direction of the effort to upgrade the Shades Valley YMCA. This was a Deliberate and Inclusive process.

When finished with this process which took several years, they determined the following:
They have to compete
They needed a new pool
They needed to upgrade their locker rooms
They needed to update their Cardio and Fitness rooms and add more space
They needed to update their outdated appearance of the facility
They had to bring their facility up to ADA compliance

To confirm their findings they also had a feasibility study provided by one of two outside firms out of Atlanta who have extensive experience with these types of projects all over the United States. The firm presented their findings back to the YMCA, and unlike the Park Board, the YMCA decided to issue Requests for Proposals to 5 Architectural firms for presentations to include basic renovation, half & half renovation including expansion, and tear down and rebuild options. The YMCA selected Williams & Blackstock Architects from this RFP process. It was estimated that the tear down and build new was going to run upwards of 15 million. The half and half scenario would run up to 6 million, and the renovation would run less. They selected the half and half scenario, and clearly understood that they needed to keep the facility open to members during the renovation so as not to lose their members to competing facilities and to continue their cash flow.

Once the cost of the project was determined, with the Architectural estimates in hand, the YMCA then embarked on an ambitious and successful 1 year fund raising campaign which also included the issuance of Tax Exempt Bonds.

At this point, the project was put out to bid and construction is now well under way. The re-built facility with a new outdoor pool and 4,500 sq ft. of additional space is due to be completed this coming November.

This is a classic example of how projects get done on behalf of Members who are the Stakeholders. The Homewood Park Board unfortunately did not solicit the full input and endorsement of the Citizens and Members using an Inclusive and Deliberate process before spending tax payer money on the project.

Let’s not forget how the original Homewood Recreation Center was built. This except was recently taken from an article written by a Homewood Resident:

Prior to the completion and dedication of the existing Homewood Community Center in 1954, 500 local citizens petitioned the Homewood City Council to have it constructed at the cost of $80,000. Homewood residents established grass roots groups and made their wishes known. The citizens Voted to construct the existing community center and they voted to approve funding.*

When I think about what might have happened had the Park Board been Inclusive in their approach, here are a few things that might have been discussed:

Instead of re-building on the same site, why did the Board not sit down with the Board of Education, and the City regarding the 45 acres on Valley the BOE recently purchased possibly building a complementary facility next to the multi purpose facility the BOE is considering for the mutual benefit of all the families in Homewood who utilize both the School and Park Facilities? Would this have been more efficient in sharing resources that belong to all of the Citizens of Homewood? The programs run by the schools and Park and Recreation department already require the use of facilities by both entities whether it is during the day, the night, or after school programs.

What about intramural sports? Homewood students participate in these programs who attend Homewood City Schools? Why are we trying to cram a larger facility into the Park when it is already crowded and does not have enough parking? Shared facilities, better traffic flow, efficiencies of land, along with City Wide Planning makes a lot more sense.

What if Homewood Park was to become an expanded Park Only instead of having the Recreation Center and Pool? Would this have improved the appearance of the Park and reduced the crowding and possibly improved safety? Would this have enhanced property values more for the surrounding Homeowners?

Then there is the money issue. This is extremely important. Fred Hawkins – liaison to the Park Board and Ward 2 Council Person told me last Monday that he envisions the Park Board taking 2 million dollars out of the Debt Service Fund which is specifically per our Financial Policies to pay down the City debt. The City of Homewood’s current debt is in excess of 48 million. Additionally, bonds would then have to be issued adding to our debt once again, which could be a real problem in today’s economic environment and with JEFFCO in bankruptcy. More to the point, it also might require we raise another penny sales tax. I for one don’t want to incur more debt or raise our sales taxes or property taxes. How about you?

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Most Homewood Citizens don’t really know the true financial condition of Homewood other than the warm fuzzy comments of this Mayor and Council which is to be expected, and unfortunately many Citizens may not care. But the Citizens do need to be presented with the full picture of our Finances, Debt, and Unfunded Liabilities as a part of this discussion.

Here is another way to look at this project. When considering the 16 million needed to construct this new facility, and based on the number of Citizens in Homewood, every man, woman, and child would have to pay more than $ 650.00 plus interest to build this new facility. Once the facility opened, their membership fees would almost double to fund the facility according to the Park Boards own estimates and it would still have to be subsidized by the City since it could not generate enough membership dues and cash flow to pay for itself. Does not sound like a very good investment when you look at it this way?

Another very important question is what makes you think Members would come back to the Homewood Recreation Center once it reopened. They do have very good choices in Homewood and will have to compete. When the new Hoover Recreation Center opened off High 31 and 459, their membership dues were $ 15.00 per month for residents. That was to get people in the door to join. Today, this facility is still being subsidized by the Tax Payer.

There is nothing that says this project cannot proceed on a different path with a more Inclusive process. It is not too late. When I talk to Citizens in Homewood and Members of the Recreation Center, and current employees who live in Homewood, most feel the investment in our current infrastructure including repairing our decrepit streets, sidewalks, etc. is much more important to the value of their homes and communities. Many would like to see us take better care of our current facilities since we already have what we want and need. Let’s slow down and go about this the right way. It’s a lot easier to do it right than it is to do it wrong. Thank all of you for considering my thoughts at this Public Forum.

Kevin Forsyth – Ward 5

Kevin Forsyth more than 8 years ago